Thursday, April 10, 2008

cockroach memories

I was reading this entry in Scribblings from Sarajevo, a new discovery of mine, and was taken back in time to my childhood, reminded of how much my mother hated cockroaches. (That would be the German cockroach, not that huge roach people see so often in the south.)

We changed residences often back then, always living in old two-story houses in small towns and on farms. We'd move in and Mother would immediately wallpaper every room in the house to make it feel like hers. But I don't recall a cockroach problem until we moved to Kansas City.

When we moved to Harlem (a poor section of Kansas City, very near the (then) only big airport in town, we first lived in a tiny, three-room apartment. Downstairs were apartments inhabited by two of my dad's brothers and their families, and across the hall was another apartment. We all, by the way, shared one bathroom.

Mother was a Stanley Home Products addict, and when she discovered we were sharing our home with roaches, she started investing in Stanley Sure-Kill by the case. She'd see a roach scurrying into a corner and she'd leave no furniture unmoved, looking for it, sending up such dense clouds of Sure-Kill that it's a wonder I lived to see adulthood. We wouldn't see any roaches for a day or two, then one of my aunts would spray. And the roaches would come back to our apartment.

My mom, in our Harlem house.

We soon moved up the street where my parents purchased a home, the first one they had ever owned. We weren't greeted by the Welcome Wagon, but the roaches tried to make us feel at home. When a roach was seen heading into a closet, my mom would take out every item inside and spray like her life depended on it. When we went to Church, she'd fog the whole house with Sure-Kill as we left, and shut the doors and windows tight. One time she forgot about my poor parakeet, and we returned home to find him expired on the floor of his cage. I gave up on parakeets after that.

In the sixth grade, the teacher assigned us the job of capturing an insect to bring to school. I told my mom what I needed; she laughed, and said, "You could take a cockroach."

It didn't take us long to find one, in spite of Mother's exterminating efforts. It was a nice, big one, too. I put it in a Ball canning jar and put the lid on loosely so my captive wouldn't die.

Imagine my surprise the next morning (and my mom's too) when we saw the jar was now inhabited by one large cockroach, an empty shell of some sort that had dropped off the back end of its body, and twenty or so tiny baby roaches. That's when we learned how roaches reproduce; up until then, we just assumed they laid their eggs in some hidden place to hatch. Oh no, they carry the eggs in a shell that drops off when the babies are full-term!

Mother never rid that house totally of roaches, but she kept them at bay well enough that when we moved to our next house, we didn't have them any more.

Only one time in my married life did roaches try to invade my home. I called an exterminator so fast, it would make your head spin. I found out that roaches are one of the easiest pests for exterminators to get rid of; I'll bet it would have been cheaper for Mother to have called a professional than to buy all those cans of Sure-Kill. But then, she always did like a challenge.


Midlife Mom said...

I've only ever seen one cockroach and that was in Florida in a place we rented for the week. I got up in the night to get something in the kitchen and one scurried across the kitchen counter. Gross. I don't think we have them here in Maine, must be too cold for them. Interesting how they have their babies. I didn't know that. Great shot of you and your Internet friends. Look like really nice people!

BarnGoddess said...

I had never laid eyes on a roach until I moved to Oklahoma! guess I lived too far North.

Ive never had them but the Orkin man comes around pretty regular on account of spiders.

Toni said...

I had an apartment in Pittsburgh that was bug infested (garden apt., attracted by the moisture). I saw one crawling along the baseboard (a sowbug). When I killed it, what did I discover? Babies everywhere. Yep, they carry their young in a pouch on their underside. WHO KNEW??? (Ick, ick, ick!!!) I mean, I can handle lots of "stuff" but a bug with joeys, I cannot. ICKKKKkkkkk!

Melinda said...

I've always been told that they live in the walls of your house, but it's when you see them that you have the problem. And creepy-crawlies just don't sit well with me. Outside, you're fine. Inside, you're mine.

I love the blog!!! When I come back to KC, can I meet your family of pets?!

meesha.v said...

I lived in an old apt. building and we never could completely get rid of roaches. You just do as much as you can. their eggs can survive for years. The best we could do is to force them to leave but they always tried to come back.